Drug Allergies - Topic Overview
What is a drug allergy?
A drug allergy happens when you have a harmful reaction to a medicine you use. Your body's immune system fights back by setting off an allergic reaction. Most drug allergies are mild, and the symptoms go away within a few days after you stop using the medicine. But some drug allergies can be very serious.
Some drug allergies go away with time. But after you have an allergic reaction to a drug, you will probably always be allergic to that drug. You can also be allergic to other drugs that are like it.
A drug allergy is one type of harmful, or adverse, drug reaction. There are other kinds of adverse drug reactions. Symptoms and treatments of different kinds of adverse reactions vary. So your doctor will want to find out if you have a true drug allergy or if you have another type of bad reaction that isn't as serious.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a drug allergy can range from mild to very serious. Most of the time they appear within 1 to 72 hours. They include:
- Hives or welts, a rash or blisters. These are the most common symptoms of drug allergies. See a picture of skin reactions caused by drug allergies .
- Coughing, wheezing, a runny nose, and trouble breathing.
- A fever.
- Serious skin conditions that makes your skin blister and peel. These include toxic epidermal necrolysis and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
- Anaphylaxis, which is the most dangerous reaction. It can be deadly, and you will need emergency treatment. Symptoms include hives all over your body, trouble breathing, swelling of the throat or mouth, and/or feeling very lightheaded. These usually appear within 1 hour after you take the medicine. Without emergency care, you could die.
What medicines commonly cause an allergic reaction?
Any medicine can cause an allergic reaction. A few of the most common ones are:
If you are allergic to one medicine, you may be allergic to others like it. For example, if you are allergic to penicillin, there is a chance that you may also be allergic to similar medicines, such as amoxicillin.